This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first summit of Mount Everest, a feat that’s been attempted by thousands of climbers since. Although we all understand ascending the world’s highest peak is one of the most grueling challenges on the planet, few people also know that summiting the mountain is only one risk climbers take; they also often fly in via one of the most nail-biting runways in the world.
Associated Press reports that Tenzing-Hillary Airport is really just a small airstrip carved out of the side of the mountain. There’s just a single, narrow runway – and if the pilot misses it by just a few feet, the plane will hit a mountain. To further complicate things, the airport is surrounded by mountains, meaning once a pilot passes a certain point, there is no choice but to land.
The airstrip was built in 1965 by Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to conquer Everest, and it is named for him and his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay. Hillary created the airport to help Sherpas spur development in the area, and ever since many climbers choose to fly into the airport in order to avoid a daylong bus trip from the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, and five days of trekking.
Since its inception, the airport has claimed about 50 deaths – far fewer than Everest itself, which has seen about 240 deaths. But still, with a track record like that, the runway can definitely be considered high risk. For more on the world’s most dangerous runways, check out this slideshow.